Thursday, December 30, 2010

A New Year... A Fresh Palette!

With Christmas now backstage... awaiting the final curtain call for the year 2010 tomorrow evening, it seems appropriate to revisit... and to take stock of the past year's events and changes to plot a curse for the New Year in both our personal and artistic lives.

I enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with my family members... sharing time with each... and small gifts... as we had agreed upon earlier. The agreed focus this year was to be "presence"... rather than "presents". It did indeed work wonderfully and allowed us to spend time together ... enjoined in the warmth of each other's company... sharing laughter... good food... music and board games - in the true spirit of a Family Christmas.

January will be a month for focusing my energies on my upcoming solo show at AyrSpace Gallery in Ayr, Ontario. I intend to work hard to produce the final "signature" pieces in the show. As has always been my custom in my teaching and artistic lives... I work in themes in order to explore a central "Idea"... coming at that theme from many different angles.

I have chosen to work en plein air to gather ideas and to paint outdoors in all four seasons... so the theme "Painting Through the Seasons" seemed a natural concept to develop and present at this exhibition of my work. Most of the pieces will either have been created totally... or in part on location... with a few much larger works being developed out of my earlier plein air work.

My daughter Allison gifted me with a copy of "Defiant Spirits" by British Art Historian Ross King. This well-written oeuvre chronicles the rise of The Group of Seven painters and lays waste the myths, legends and inaccuracies that have for too long been embraced as "the embodiment" of Canadian Fine Art production in the Twentieth Century.

Most Canadians have been enculturated to believe... and wrongly so... that The Group of Seven created a totally unique and "new" Canadian Art Movement. All Canadian artists and critics since then... myself included... have followed the furrows they laid down attempting to align our stylism and vision with theirs.... seeking a truly "Canadian" identity and voice.

My son Andrew, Allison's brother gifted Deb and I with a two year family membership to the McMichael Collection, located in not too distant Kleinburg. This collection of Canadian Art was created Robert and Signe McMichael to house their lifelong collection of Group of Seven paintings... at first in their log home Tapawingo... which would grow to become the mecca for Canadian artists and art lovers.

I visited this sacred place in my journey dozens of times... often taking my children and on several occasions my Tuesday Art Club students over thirty years. It has never failed to inspire and encourage my journey. It in honest truth... the very core of my artistic being. I unabashedly "feel" the energy of the Canadian landscape... and the pride in our heritage. But I have always recognized, having majored in Art History... that Canadian Art... including that of the Seven ... or Western Art in general owe much to the European Masters and Movements. How could we not?

The closing exhibition of 2010 that we visited as a family on December 30Th... to our surprise... was aptly entitled: The Defiant Spirits... and was curated by none other than the guest curator Ross King. The exhibition was simply a visual passageway for the book and King's ideas. How visually stunning... and intellectually it was! Everything came together: the book... the images and the ideas.

I am deeply blessed... once again... to have children who recognize my passion and who willingly share my deep and abiding love for the craft of making art. It is marvellous to be able to embrace and share common values and interests.. in this age of ipads and ear buds... ebooks and video games... where one is always remote from the other "interacting" individual(s)... with REAL people... face-to-face. I feel a dinosaur so often... choosing not to be involved with electronic toys (beyond this one).

Having experienced reading this book... seeing this exhibition... and in connecting through this blog forum to so many wonderfully talented and friendly artists around the globe... "I" feel much more connected... and in step with our common passion and craft. I more fully realize... and subscribe to this passage from King's book and note in "Sketches" The Members Journal Fall/Winter 2010:

"Van Gogh believed that greatness could be achieved "by working from nature... without imitating other people." But the painter's mind can never be wiped clean. Every artist no matter how innovative or original, is inevitably a fusion of prior influences and the legacy of artistic fore bearers."

So when we get down on ourselves... lamenting the fact that we don't have our own style... or a "fresh" idea... perhaps it would better serve us all just to get back to our easels... indoors or en plein air... and to push pigment for the sheer joy of doing so. Life is short... and each artist has only so many paintings he or she can make in that small space in time we have been given to enjoy! As Group of Seven member Alfred J (AJ) Casson so aptly put it:

"Time... is the only critic."

Count your blessings... and share your Joy!

Happy New Year... and Good Painting to ALL!

Thank you all... for your visits and comments!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to All !

My post tonite features the stained glass artistry of my wife Deb. This angel joyfully adorns the top of our annual Christmas Tree. Each morning, I rise early... usually around 5:00 am ... put on the coffee pot.. and then head into the living room and light the Christmas Tree.

I return with coffee in hand and settle into my favourite wing back chair... and just take in the wonder of the colour and quiet. This is my ritual throughout the entire Christmas Season. This affirms for "Me" the rich blessings which "I" enjoy... and confirms that life is full... and that "I" have so very much to be thankful for.

Underneath the tree I see unopened presents... awaiting the excited hands of the younger Shermans on Christmas morning. I can't help but think that many children both here and in other parts of the world are less fortunate. They will scarcely have enough... or perhaps even nothing to eat... much less... gifts under a tree. Many will never taste the joy of freedom... sleep without fear. These are gifts the we, here in the Western World take so for granted.

This morning I was moved to create this word thought/ poem. I send it out with much warmth and love to those of you who follow my blog... and who share my Hope for a more Peaceful and Equitable World... where sharing and caring might rise above cultural barriers and biases.

Merry Christmas.... Many blessings and Much Peace to all !... From "Me"... and My Christmas Angel...Deb!

Oh Christmas Angel!

Oh Christmas Angel...
Perched high atop our tree,
Please share your radiant light-
And send it down to Me.
Drive out Winter's darkness and set my heart free,
Help me to become the very best "I" can be.

Oh Christmas Angel...
Perched high atop our tree,
Help restore the wonder
Of The Child... within Me.
Replace all the cares of these weighty adult ways,
And restore the many blessings of my sweet childhood days.

Oh Christmas Angel...
Perched high atop our tree,
Stir the glad tidings-
And the Joy... within Me.
Shine on our families and friends, near and far,
To tell them how loved and important they are.

Oh Christmas Angel...
Perched high atop our tree,
Please share our Light with others-
Don't shine it... just on Me.
Sprinkle your blessings of Joy from above,
So that others around us.... may feel our evergreen Love!

Merry Christmas!.... Happy New Year.... and Peace on Earth... and Good Painting to All!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Solstice... the Return of Light!

A number of my West Coast blogger friends have chosen to celebrate the occurrence of the Winter Solstice by symbolically selecting lighthouses to mark the return of Light. Having lived most of my life on the shore of the St Lawrence River, Lake Ontario at Kingston and in Nova Scotia for five years... "I" share a love for these maritime monuments and have painted a good number of them.

There has recently been an initiative, dating to the 1990's on the part of The Canadian Coast Guard to de-staff manned working lighthouses across the country... arguing that it can save money by automating the remainder of its 241 major working lighthouses along our coasts. There are 50 staffed lighthouses remaining in this country: 23 in Newfoundland and Labrador, 27 in British Columbia.

Senator Bill Rompkey has been chairing a review committee in the matter and in the report offered by the committee suggested: "We've fallen in love with technology. It's become the answer to everything. There are a lot of times when it doesn't work. You need human beings to use the technology."

After discussing the issue with lighthouse keepers, businesses and maritime officials on both coasts, the committee has determined that the issue of de-staffing be put on hold at present until a full cost analysis and appraisal of other public services offered by lighthouses and their keepers can be properly evaluated.

Rompkey also stated: "That lightkeepers have a number of useful roles: search and rescue for those in distress, observing oil and other pollutions, monitoring suspicious traffic including drug smugglers, criminal excursions and illegal immigration."

In Ontario. a number of private citizen groups in a number of Great Lakes locations have adopted/ assumed responsibility for structural maintenance for lighthouse that had been threatened by demolition orders issued by The Coast Guard to insure their survival.

It is indeed beyond being a pity... it is a travesty that our government... small "g" fully intended... has so little value for heritage... or for that matter concern for the personal well-being of its citizens. We are a maritime country. It shall always be so. It makes sense to maintain a human presence in the business of guiding marine traffic along our many thousands of miles of often rugged and dangerous coastlines.

My first jpeg (appropriate for this time of year) depicts a "Light in the East" ... located at Rustico, Prince Edward Island. It has been replaced by an automated light. The second is Squamish Light in British Columbia... and I believe, is still manned.

May these magnificent monuments... to our maritime traditions here in Canada... shine on.. to light the way for mariners who so depend upon their luminous presence!

As well... May the True Light of Christmas light the homes and hearts of all my blogging Friends!

Merry Christmas to all... and to all... a good Light!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter Came Calling!

Winter has been hesitant... even reluctant to fully enter our Oro-Medonte area for several weeks now. Snow would come and go... driven off and melted away by unseasonable temperatures and a warm sun. In late November... I was painting en plein air in little more than my trusty red mackinaw... not even requiring my usual light winter cotton gloves. One could find snow in pockets and along north-facing slopes... and in the curves of furrows running the length of farmer's plowed fields.

However...that all abruptly ended this week... as Winter stormed frigidly into our area... full force... and dead out of the North. We, at present have over 20 cm on the ground... much to the joy of local ski resorts and skiers. To the west... in the London-Sarnia area of Southwestern Ontario a state of emergency was declared today. The armed forces helicopters were called in to assist in the rescue of 300 motorists trapped on Highway 410. Last weekend... that same area recorded a weekend snowfall of 146 cm of snow. It is indeed an unseasonable rough start for snow removal crews... but much embraced by the 100's of school children who had three school-free snow days in the one week!

The weather has made driving both dangerous and even foolhardy. Many roads were closed early in the day today... due to the glare ice conditions caused by the blowing wind and wet snow accumulation of yesterday freezing overnight. These conditions really reduced any hope of visits to the Gallery on the weekend. We just hung out... and gift wrapped.

I have included some jpegs to demonstrate the above conditions... and have included a poem/ word thought that I put together early on Sunday morning. In think it expresses similar thoughts to the visuals sent along! Hope that you enjoy them!

Despite these inconveniences... I continue to love winter! It is a magical time to paint outdoors!

Good Painting to All... and Happy Holidays!

Winter Came Calling
The snow has come
The robin's fled,
And all the world is tucked in bed
The brooks are hushed,
The woodlands bare
Except for firs
Sprinkled here and there.

A world much changed
Where Winter reigns,
Where Jack Frost decorates window panes.
Where children play
And count the hours,
Til' old Santa's visit,
To your place... and ours.

The woodland worlds,
Once dark and green,
Are turned into perfect postcard scenes.
Each spruce decked out in an ermine coat,
On each hand a snowy fingered glove.
A place where multi-coloured shadows play,
With dancing sunlight from the sky above.

Winter... with his cold,
Seems to finally win the day,
Directing warm Autumn thoughts
Towards Spring thoughts... too far away.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Trees ... Christmas Thoughts... Light and Musing

We are quickly approaching the time of the annual Winter Equinox. That date on our calendar corresponds to... and likely accounts for the practice our Christian celebration of Christmas... the birth of Jesus Christ, according to our Christian tradition. Symbolically... both events signal the return of Light to the earth after a long period of hardship and darkness and give reason for those who have been awaiting the Light's return to celebrate and give thanks.

The tree plays a central role in this annual Western World pageantry in almost every home. We decorate our trees with electric lights and shiny, colourful, reflecting decorations. earlier trees were adorned with small tapers to illuminate the houses... and fill the darkened world with Light. Yule logs were dragged into the homes and palaces of the rich with much pomp and singing to give warmth and light. Most modern homes are equipped with wood or gas -burning open fireplaces that become the centre for family gatherings.

Fire and heat... both initially being bi-products of trees... have drawn mankind from our first moments in history... into a dependent relationship with trees. While urban Westerners are less dependent upon trees and wood for these needs, rural areas are still partially dependent- and in other parts of the underdeveloped world they continue to be totally dependent for light, cooking and heat requirements.

Another aspect of our dependence on trees is focused upon our building and tool technological needs. We still frame and clad using wood... furnish and decorate with it and use it as a disposable natural resource for use as a commodity in trade with other countries whose supply of raw wood and lumber is unreliable, or non-existent.

So... we can rightly assume that trees will continue to be a valued and necessary partner in Mankind's pursuit of a sustainability of its presence here on this "Blue Planet". We will continue to depend totally upon the remaining forests of the planet to provide oxygen.... reduce carbon dioxide... and cover the bases in the many ways mentioned above... in all parts of the world... simultaneously.

As one of my regular readers mentioned in his comment, the old adage that he had grown from his youth hearing... still dumb founded and disturbed him... as it does "Me" as well.

"You can't see the forest for the trees." Think about that statement for a moment. What makes that so? "I" believe that Man arrogantly looks at all resources with a sense of collectivity. We look at the vastness and seemingly endless supply of trees... fish... water... minerals... atmosphere... species... with complete arrogance and disregard for the fact that each one of these seemingly boundless resources can be reduced... through arrogance and wholesale harvesting... to one.... then .... none.

We certainly accomplished it easily within less than one hundred years with the passenger pigeon... the bison... the Labrador Duck and if conservationist groups around the world are to be believed.... many single species are disappearing daily. No species or resource is limitless... nor can we afford to believe so.

We can make a difference individually... through better buying choices and use of resources... by educating our young and our neighbours through our actions and our willingness to speak out and assume an active role either together... or alone to change the flow of consumerism and unnecessary development through active and proper stewardship practices.

My question to "You"... in closing is a simple one really. Do "You" care enough to leave a rightful birth right for your children and grandchildren to enjoy in their lifetimes... or will we continue to squander it and take all of it to our graves with us?

Will "We... "pave Paradise... and put in a parkin' lot?" (Joanie Mitchell)

Paint a Tree... or a Forest of trees... for the world to "see"... and share it! Pass it forward!
Another folksy old "tree"truism: "The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree."
Think about that! What are your children and grandkids learning from your actions/inactions??? I wonder! Talk n' walk with them in forests. Introduce them to a tree!

This is my contribution from this week's plein air activity. "Birch Copse In Early Winter"- oil on canvas 24x20 inches.Yes... Winter has arrived here! Snow has fallen all day... every day for the last five consecutive days! Just in time for Christmas! Let it snow!

Good Painting to ALL!